Approaching the Door of Mercy at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
People around me don't seem to be very excited about these doorways established by the Catholic Church at cathedrals all over the world as a physical sign of the Year of Mercy.
Mercy is different than forgiveness, you know. You have to do something to get forgiveness. Like the FLYLady's Shiny Sink, you get all clean and forgiven at baptism then you need to go regularly to confession to keep the gunk off your soul.
Non-Catholics, too, know you need to at least ask for forgiveness before you usually get it. And there is this messy thing about sin always having a price and your forgiveness not really being free for EVERYONE. In the end, the sufferings of Christ paid that price long ago but in a very real, concrete way that did not involve fairy tale unicorns but instead involved your True Lover shedding his own actual human BLOOD! Ouch.
But then there is mercy.
Mercy - ". . . the ready willingness to help anyone in need, especially in need of pardon or reconciliation." -- From the Modern Catholic Dictionary
And it is poured out free from God - guaranteed! Remember when Jesus told Peter . . .
" I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." -- Matthew 16:19
Well in that verse he first establishes the papacy and then gives the Pope the power to "loose" goodies from heaven. Imagine Pope Francis shaking and loose-ing all the fruits on the tree of mercy so they fall (BAM!) into your lap!
The Church now is busy writing fancy-sounding theological statements about what all this means and talking a lot about this being a year for us Catholics to GIVE mercy. This is definitely a great time to refresh our memories on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
This is also a time we get to feel all creepy talking about plenary indulgences and abuses the Church is (unfairly, I think) accused of back in the middle ages. Which gets us talking about purgatory . . . and all of these discussions are good for another day.
But I just love the idea that I can walk through a special door, close to home or far away, and receive mercy in my sinfulness from God. Not necessarily forgiveness, but mercy.
Can you get mercy from God in other ways and places and times? Absolutely! But for the Year of Mercy, the Church gives you a way, a place and a guarantee*, care of Matthew 16:19.
If you think you are exempt from/not eligible for mercy, check out this Father Mike homily. It is the best thing I have ever heard anyone say on the matter.
So walking through the Door of Mercy for me is like: Mercy in my hair! Mercy between my toes! Mercy under my fingernails! BAM!!!
*Guarantee of mercy offer expires November 20, 2016 with the conclusion of the Year of Mercy. For mercy after expiration date, consult your priest or pastor - or try this: "Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy."